HAZEL GREEN— With tears in her eyes, Jill Ingersoll, fifth grade teacher at Southwestern Elementary School, reminisced about the lasting impression Margie Bernhardt, a fifth grade teacher for 21 years at Southwestern Elementary School, made on the students, staff and community.
“She had a definite love of education,” Ingersoll said. “She wanted each child to succeed and she had a passion for reading. She could get the most reluctant reader to love reading by the end of fifth grade.”
Bernhardt faced three courageous battles with cancer before she passed away on Nov. 13, 2012, just months after her retirement from teaching.
A dedication ceremony will be held in front of the elementary school on May 10 at 4 p.m. A tree will be planted in her memory and many people will speak about their favorite memories of their beloved teacher, friend and family member.
Many of Bernhardt’s family will attend the ceremony, including her husband, son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, father and several sisters. Speakers will include district administrator John Costello, former students Alayna Smith and Nicole Pollock, Bernhardt’s daughter-in-law or husband and past president of the school’s parent teacher organization (PTO). The community is invited to this event.
Ingersoll said eventually a plaque will be placed near the tree with her name and years of service in the district.
“I think Marge was the kind of woman where materialistic things never mattered to her,” Ingersoll said. “It was all about people. She would always find something good in every bad.”
Because Bernhardt had worked at the school so long and impacted so many lives, the school wanted to do something that would act as a lasting memory of her. The PTO purchased the tree that will be dedicated to her memory. Ingersoll said Bernhardt was an avid lover of nature, making a tree very fitting for her.
Bernhardt is a Cuba City native. She graduated from Cuba City High School and went to a school for nursing. She worked at two nursing homes in Grant County and later was a stay-at-home mom for her son, Gabe, who also attended the Cuba City School District. The family moved to Cassville for a few years where Bernhardt’s husband, Steve, worked on the barge lines. They moved back to Cuba City when Bernhardt started teaching at Southwestern School District. Ingersoll taught alongside Bernhardt for 10 years.
Ingersoll said Bernhardt was very passionate about reading.
“She had the magic touch,” Pollock, a student in Bernhardt’s class in 2001 and a current student teacher at SWSD, said. “She could get the most reluctant reader to pick up a book and read it. I don’t know how she did it.”
Pollock said Bernhardt didn’t just stick to the academics with her students.
“When she gave advice, it wasn’t only academic-related, but she always wove in life skills with it,” Pollock said. “It wasn’t just academics. It was things that were going to help you in the real world.”